Remember the very first time your kids really went trick or treating? You know, as opposed to the times when you would dress them as a bumble bee and carry them door to door. For us, the year was 2006. Christian was 6, he dressed up as Buzz Lightyear. Michael was 3 and still wearing the Bumble Bee costume (hey, don’t judge, that thing was expensive). Christian and his neighborhood buddies walked up and down the carefully plotted streets and really felt like they worked for that candy. He was so proud. Which was why it was so devastating when he woke up the next morning and found his plastic pumpkin filled with empty candy wrappers. What the ((CENSORED))?? We suspected our Nanny had a food problem but we had no idea it would come to this.
We briefly had a nanny/ mother’s helper who lived with us Monday to Friday and went back to an apartment she shared with a bunch of other girls from Ireland on the weekends. We will call her “Jasmine” (What? I like Disney princesses, you knew that).
I’m not sure where it all went wrong but. as with most things, it all started as a generalized feeling that things weren’t going in the Mary Poppins-like direction you had intended. You know that feeling when you can’t wait for Friday – well, in our case we REALLY couldn’t wait for Friday, so we could have the house back to ourselves. (We have since had au pairs that we have loved and stayed with us for years, but that’s another Blog for another day).
We also began picking up clues about Jasmine’s food issues as we looked around the kitchen. It started with conversations that went like this:
- “Jasmine, I had two boxes or Oreo cookies, do you know where they are?”
- “No, Mum,” she would say, “I don’t.” But, you know, the black cookie crumbs on her clothes would say otherwise.
Then we realized food was disappearing. Rapidly. As in, I would make a Crockpot of stew in the morning and nothing would be left by the time I got home from work. Or I would make lunch for my husband the night before and it would be gone by the next morning.
Listen, if you’re hungry, that’s one thing. I get it, really. My brother had been on the Wrestling team from junior high to senior year of Varsity, I get that some people need more fuel than others. But Jasmine ate 3 meals with several helpings and then ate just about everything in sight. The groceries bill doubled.
But she had so many good qualities. A lovely singing voice. A wonderful ability to tell children’s stories. And she was teaching Christian to play ice hockey and Irish rubgy, as she had been a nationally ranked player in her native land. On a men's team. She was probably 6’ tall and 250 lbs. It’s where Christian first learned to tackle. What can I say, Jasmine was a multi-faceted person.
Then came what is commonly referred to in our household as the “Halloween Candy Massacre”. Imagine your little boy waking up, all excited, and running downstairs to take a look at the Plastic pumpkin filled with the fruits (or sweets) of his labor. At first we couldn’t find the pumpkin. Then we found it pushed in the back of the coat closet. Not empty. Nope, it was filled with the empty candy bar wrappers. Who does that?
We finally confirmed it was Jasmine. (Our dog – briefly -- was the other suspect -- but if he had hidden opposable thumbs and the ability to tear wrappers off I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this Blog right now). We broke the news to Christian. At first he was uncomprehending. Then his lip started to quiver. He was 6, it was a big deal. But up til that point, he had not really faced down any adversity so why not turn it into a teachable moment?
“Son,” we started out, “you know that different people have different challenges, you know some people are scared of heights ….”
“I get it, Mommy,” said our 6 year old. “But there’s also right and wrong and eating candy you didn’t earn is wrong. She could have gotten a pumpkin and gone door to door like I did.” The kid had a point there.
We setup some household rules that Jasmine decided she couldn’t live with. Like the only snacks between meals would be from the fruit bowl, the veggie tray or granola bars. Once I stopped buying cookies, bread and baked goods, Jasmine decided she was going to try to get a job closer to her home in NYC. We did stay in touch for quite a while via the computer.
What did we learn from our time with Jasmine? Well, the world is full of different and interesting people. And a good leader (yes, parents are leaders) will learn to get along with all different types of people. And some people come to the table (slight pun) with more challenges than others. You can still embrace them and all their flaws and quirkiness, and teach your kids to do the same. But, you know, you can do it via email or Skype, that’s OK too.
Oh, and how to kick a rugby ball, we learned that too.
Enjoy your hard earned Halloween candy, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo
www.Facebook.com/LoBiondoLaw (Photo from Halloween 2007)
Friday, October 31, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
Yes, that is a real phobia. And yes, I diagnosed myself. But I’m pretty sure I have it. I do try to embrace this all-American holiday that everyone else seems to love but I just can’t get into it. In fact, I really don’t like it and I can’t wait for it to be over. It wasn’t always like that. I used to love Halloween -- when it was all about the Great Pumpkin and cute costumes and the thrill of knocking on a door and getting free candy (that part is brilliant, let’s face it).
Then came high school, and Halloween got, well, DARKER. Instead of the Great Pumpkin, we started to watch movies like “My Bloody Valentine.” Instead of the little kids dressing up like cowboys and princesses, classmates were dressing up like zombies and murder victims. And it seemed to be the mission of every boy in high school to scare the crap out of you. You guys know who you are – the ones that jumped out from dark corners in a devil costume yelling “BOO!” Thanks a Million, guys, you’re lucky they never had to get the defibrillator for me.
Then I went to NYU and moved to New York City. The NYC version of the ritual known as Halloween can only be described as – well, I can’t describe it – you would have to experience it for yourself. Aand if you’re over 25 that ship has sailed. Let’s just say it’s the absolute pinnacle of Halloween excess. The Halloween parade in Greenwich Village is off the charts. The costumes are Academy Award worthy and they have full on parade floats. From which they blast dance music, with everybody in the street partying and dancing. It’s the street party of the year, and it makes you happy to be in your twenties. Unless you are scared of Halloween, and then it stinks. But I endured.
And so when I moved back Upstate (yes, sorry guys, looking North from Manhattan, this is upstate. But, you know, anything north of 125th Street is Upstate to New Yorkers). I decided to shun all things Halloween. Every Halloween, I pretended it was just another ordinary day and watched uplifting movies (OK, yes, I watched Mulan and other Disney movies, you got me). I refused to acknowledge the existence of Halloween at all. And all around me, the cult of Halloween-fun and Zombie-fun began to morph and grow. Still, I refused to give in and celebrate Halloween.
Then things changed again. They always do when you have children. At first, Halloween was easy and cute. You know, costumes from the Disney store and decorations from Pottery Barn Kids. Then the kids started trick or treating and I realized that there are a lot of people who enjoy scaring the Snickers out of trick or treaters. Okay, truth be told, my kids thought it was entertaining, but I did not -- when we would walk up to a house and some suburban Dad would jump out from behind a tree looking like Beetlejuice and revving a chainsaw.
And then, a couple of years ago, Michael said to me, as he rooted around his plastic pumpkin, looking for Peppermint patties: “Mommy, why are you so scared of Halloween?”
Isn’t every body scared of Halloween?, I asked.
“No,” he said, “it’s just a lot of theater and makeup.” And that’s when it hit me. The kids enjoy the pageantry and imagination of it all. The ability to completely turn into another person (or superhero or monster) for the night. The ability to live in a world populated completely by Imagination. And candy. And I vowed to face my fears and embrace Halloween.
Last year, I started the Zombie Oktoberfest tradition, as a fundraiser for the Newburgh Rowing Club. I bought a Bride of Frankenstein costume and was a “pretty zombie.” This year, I stepped it up, and had full on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) makeup done, by the fabulous Chloe, who also gave Michael some pretty scary Zombie facepainting. The fundraiser at the Newburgh Brewing Co was a success both years, especially this year when we added in “Zombie Zumba.” And finally, this year, tonight actually, I will be going with my kids and the Student Ambassador Quad to the ultra frightening “Headless Horseman” in Kingston.
Yes, I am scared. But I also want to show my kids that it’s OK and legitimate to have fear. After all, we ask our kids to face their fears all the time. Every time they go to a new school. Every time they get on stage to perform in a play or orchestra. Every time they lace up for football, suit up for soccer, or Sit Ready in a crew shell. I can’t very well ask them to face their fears if Mommy is scared of Halloween. So yeah, if you are at Headless Horseman, and you see a Mom with a bunch of kids, burying her face in her 10 year old son’s shoulder, screaming like a banshee, that would be me. And for Pete’s sake, please don’t tell me they have scary clowns, that’s a whole other phobia!
Have a great day and a happy Halloween, everyone! And don’t forget, you could win a $50.00 gift card in the Mrs. Lo’s Halloween contest, if you are a fan of the page. Just read the pinned post for more info! <3 Mrs. Lo www.Facebook.com/LoBiondoLaw (collage of some Zombie Oktoberfest photos from last year and this year)
Friday, October 17, 2014
I don’t think it’s a big secret: I am a Fan of anyone who helps kids in the City of Newburgh, and especially the kids in my Student Ambassador Program. I first met Nan when she was running for Congress in 2011. It was at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, at a fundraiser for a NYS Supreme Court Justice. I had no idea who she was, but I was mesmerized by her whole aura. I’m not going to lie, the first thing that impressed me was her shoes. You don’t see a lot of people in the Poughkeepsie Grand wearing Manolo’s. I told her about some of the programs I was working on and she said, “I’m going to remember you, and we will talk again.” I laughed and said, no, you’ll get elected and forget about me.
Nan was elected. But she did not forget about me. Whenever I have asked for her support of any of the children’s programs and charities I work with, she has been there for the kids. Sometimes I think to myself: Nan and I have a lot in common. We both are committed to children’s causes. We both have dads who are immigrants, and veterans. We both have been successful business owners. We both love Louboutins (what’s not to love?)
But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike me, Nan not only reads the newspaper, she creates news. She knows stuff. Really, she knows so much stuff it boggles my mind. From global politics, to national politics, to local news (right down to who’s running for dog catcher). And she cares. She notices things like one of my Student Ambassadors didn’t go up to the buffet, and did I think that maybe he had a stomach ache (She was right, he had not eaten. But that was because he didn’t understand the concept of a buffet. Once he figured it out, he hit that buffet quite a few times and hasn’t slowed down since).
Successful people know a few secrets and here’s one: once you master the art of public speaking, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a room of 50 people or a stadium with 10,000, it’s all the same. In a sense, it’s easy because it’s fairly impersonal. You talk, the crowd listens. However, there are precious few people who can work a crowd AND sit, talk and listen in small groups. I’ve seen Nan bring huge crowds to their feet with standing ovations. I’ve also seen her on my back porch, sitting and talking with working moms about the work-family balance. Over the summer, she and I sat on my back porch and talked about the horrible tragedy where the young boys in Israel had been found murdered. Whereas I was simply appalled to the point of paralysis, Nan was appalled but determined to make a difference. She was on her way to speak at a memorial service for them and to help in an active way.
Both my sons love Nan. Especially Michael (see his YouTube video). Little Michael, at age 10, is a very precocious child. He senses stuff. As a matter of fact, since he was about 7 years old, he would meet someone and moments later sum them up in two words. And be right on point. He would meet the coaches at the Boathouse, and come up with nicknames that stick with them to this day. At 7 years old, he sorted the coaches into: Big Coach, Nice Coach, Tough Coach, and Married Coaches (anyone who was around the Boathouse 3 years ago can figure those out). After Nan left the BBQ at my house over the Summer, Little Michael turned to me and said:
-“I hope Nan gets elected again.”
-Why is that, I asked him?
- “Because,” said Michael, “she really likes me.”
And there you have it, folks. Little Michael seems to have a sixth sense about people. My husband and I are more politically involved than I let on, although I usually don’t blog about it. But, truth be told our kids have met a LOT of politicians. And without question, Nan is my kids’ hands down favorite.
I know Nan Hayworth. I think it’s fair to say I know her quite well. She is a good person, and she cares deeply about the children of our area and our nation.
I think my slogan for her would be: “Nan Hayworth: Doctor, Mother, and Friend of Little Michael.”
Election day is coming up, people, whatever you do, get out there and vote. I hope you vote for Nan but whatever you do, don’t sit home and waste your vote. A lot of people, from the Civil War to the Civil Rights workers of 1964, gave their lives so that we could all have the right to vote.
And with that in mind, have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo www.Facebook.com/LoBiondoLaw
(Collage of some photos of Nan and the LoBiondo’s, and some fundraisers)
Friday, October 10, 2014
THAT TIME THAT MRS. Lo ALMOST SHOPLIFTED – it was accidental, of course. I left the grocery store, lifted up my giant Disney tote, and there they were: a small tub of mozzarella balls and a can of tomato paste. My first reaction was horror, and my 10-year-old son picked up on it right away. “What’s the matter, Mommy?” asked Michael, looking at me with his big, bright blue, innocent eyes.
Hmmm, how exactly do I explain this? Mommy accidentally shoplifted? I think I made a giant mistake? How about: “Mommy forgot to pay for some items …”
My child doesn’t mince words: “You STOLE from Price Chopper???” This would be one of the infinitesimally few times that being a lawyer comes in handy in the world of Motherhood. “No, no, larceny requires a mens rea, which is to say an intent to deprive another person of their property …”
My child was clearly not impressed. There he stood, in his Catholic School uniform with his arms folded, with a look that said, OK, Mommy, cut the lawyer ((CENSORED)) and fix this.
And we did. We were very late to our next appointment but we went back in and waited on line to explain what happened, and to pay. The cashier really didn’t need the whole backstory, she just wanted to keep the line moving, and rightly so. I had my items and my receipt. I was trying to explain how the items got underneath my Disney bag but she was not all the interested. Is this how it all starts for a petty thief, I asked myself? Just one can of tomato paste and your whole life goes downhill? As I was waiting, I thought of my very first jury trial client.
I was 25 years old and a freshly minted attorney at the Legal Aid Society in a county south of here. I was waiting for the “perfect” jury trial. In other words, someone with such a bad case and such a long record that the prosecutor would not offer a plea bargain. Someone who was going to jail for a year no matter what.
His name was “George” (no, it wasn’t, but you knew that). He was charged with stealing a pair of shoes. I could wrap myself in his rap sheet many, many times. It was filled with petit larceny convictions and arrests. 106 of them to be exact. “Listen, ma’am, I will plead guilty, I just want my three hots and a cot,” he had said. As a favor to me, he allowed me to try the case to get experience, and I agreed to teach him to read. (I had a reading group at the local jail, I read stories to them out loud, after work, and then we did Hooked on Phonics).
Your first jury trial is terrifying, and I was a person who did local theatre in New York City and took some acting classes at NYU; but nothing can prepare you for your first jury trial. I stood up in front of the jury and promptly forgot my own name. George was convicted (not because I forgot my name but because he was guilty). I gave him a copy of “Call of the Wild,” the book I was reading to my clients, as a parting gift. He wrote me to tell me he finished reading the book in jail and went on to another book on the reading list I gave him.
Flash forward 25 years, to the grocery store. “Mommy, you are daydreaming again!” said Michael, as he poked me. “Pay for your tomatoes and cheese.” I did. And I said a silent prayer for George and all the clients in my reading group. Did he mend his ways, or move on to other accessories? I will never know.
But in the end, that’s all we can do. You can take, take, take from the world or give, give, give. When you decide to be a Giver, it becomes a habit you just can’t break. Unfortunately, the same is true of the habit of Taking. “Did you have any doubts Mommy would go back in and pay?” I asked my son. “No, I did not,” he said. “You’re not a Thief, you’re my Mommy.” And with that, I figured I must be doing something right.
Let’s take a moment to say a prayer for those who do lose their way, and remember always: There but for the grace of God go I.
Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondoPage.Blogspot.com (stay tuned for a special SUNDAY EDITION of the Mrs. Lo Blog tomorrow!) (Photo of the boys in 2009) www.Facebook.com/LoBiondoLaw
Friday, October 3, 2014
“ARE YOU WALKING AROUND TO A DISNEY SOUNDTRACK?” – my family and close friends know I like to live in a “Bubble.” By that, I mean that I have my own little world comprised of family and close friends, rowing (and more rowing), no outside news except for the Sentinel and other local papers, and the accompaniment of a Disney soundtrack.
I like to think I have created a happiness bubble. To do so, I have given up a lot of things that create an Unhappiness Bubble. For starters, I have not watched television news or read a major newspaper reporting on national news since sometime after 9/11 (yes, I am 13 years news-free). Many people find this fact somewhere between violative of the Social Covenant and downright revolutionary. “How can you live like that?” Big Coach asked me recently, “when you were a Journalism major at NYU?” That’s simple. Most of the ((CENSORED)) out there is not journalism. Here’s what “The News” seems like to me, now that I have been living a near-Amish lifestyle as far as media content is concerned: There has been a brutal (FILL IN THE BLANK) in (FILL IN A LOCATION), stay tuned for video proof of the same so you can get sick to your stomach.
I do care about local news. Orange County wants to close the Newburgh DMV: that’s important news to me and I will blog about it.
“Don’t you need to know this stuff for work?” my oldest son (who has to read the New York Times as part of his freshman high school year at Don Bosco Prep) asked incredulously. No, as a matter of fact, I do not. I learned a smidgen (not much, truth be told) about being a lawyer in law school, and the rest of it I learned in the last 24 years of practicing law and being a business owner.
I have a really limited amount of time to do what I need to do; and as I get older I find I have a limited amount of space in my brain, and I would like to save it for stuff that matters. Like which side of the Courtroom the Plaintiff’s attorney belongs on; the fact that Michael doesn’t like applesauce in his lunchbox and Christian doesn’t like mayo on his sandwiches; where my husband keeps his tuxedo cumberbun; which side Orion prefers to get his belly rubs on; the seat order for my Student Ambassadors Quad; how to remember what direction to point the oarlock when I’m rowing with my Rowing BFF; where Big Coach hides his Cherry Coke; and the 8,000 different passwords that Life Nowadays requires us to be able to recall (Sorry I haven’t been on Pinterest for over a year but I can’t remember my password and I just don’t have the energy to set a new one).
I’d say the Memory Banks are plenty full right now and I don’t want to overload the circuits. To help me power down, I like to keep my mind focused on what’s really important -- that’s right, Disney World. Disney music puts me in a good mood, what can I say. I used to have all of the Disney songs on CD, then on an iPod, now I keep the Pandora Disney station on. All the time. When I’m getting ready in the morning. In my car driving to Don Bosco football games or to Regattas. And when I am walking around, the Pandora Disney station is playing songs from Little Mermaid, Jungle Book, or Frozen, while it is sitting in my giant tote bag from – of course – Disney World.
I was walking into the lobby of my office building at 275 North recently, and someone stopped me –
“Excuse me but – is that a Disney soundtrack coming out of your bag?”
Why, yes, I answered, it most certainly is.
“That’s a great idea,” she said. “We should all walk around with a Disney soundtrack, the world would be a happier place.”
Exactly! As my grandmother always used to say, the formula for happiness isn’t difficult: Love your fellow man, mind your beeswax, honor God every day, and sing a happy tune. In my case, that would be a whole bunch of Disney tunes. Have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo www.LoBiondoPage.Blogspot.com (Here we are goofing off during our last trip to Disney World, December 2013)